“The Death of Actaeon” by Titian
“The Death of Actaeon” by Titian depicts the last stage of the mythological story. The young hunter named Actaeon unwittingly stumbles on the naked goddess Diana, enjoying a bath in the spring.
Diana is surprised to be caught during her bath in an exposed naked state by Actaeon and, in response, splashes water upon Actaeon, who, as a mortal, is transformed into a deer with antlers and flees in fear.
This painting recounts Actaeon’s unfortunate fate, who, after fleeing, is tracked down by his hounds and killed because they failed to recognize their master.
This painting is a sequel of Titian’s work “Diana and Actaeon,” showing the story’s tragic conclusion, which follows the Roman poet Ovid’s account in the Metamorphoses.
There has been debate about whether this painting is finished or not, as the painting does not have his signature, which perhaps indicates it is not completed.
There is no arrow in the picture, nor is the bowstring visible. The goddess does not have her usual attribute of the small crescent in her hair that Titian used in other depictions.
Titian seems never to have completed this painting to his satisfaction. The picture remained in his studio until he died in 1576.
Why did Titian have difficulties in completing this painting? Did he see himself as Actaeon? Titian had painted many female naked figures during his career.
The story of Diana and Actaeon became popular in the Renaissance and had been depicted by many artists. Ovid’s account does not include Diana herself pursuing Actaeon or shooting at him.
There were ancient reliefs and engraved gems showing either Diana hunting with dogs, or Actaeon being attacked by his dogs, and a few Renaissance works. Still, the subject in this painting was rare before this Titian depiction.
In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature, and she had similar attributes to the Greek goddess Artemis. Oak groves and deer were especially sacred to her.
Diana was one of the three maiden goddesses, along with Minerva and Vesta, who swore never to marry. Since the Renaissance, the myth of Diana has often been represented in the visual and literary arts.
The artist of this masterpiece, Titian, was the most famous painter of the 16th-century Venetian school.
So much so that his contemporaries recognized him as one of the most accomplished painters, adept with portraits, landscape, and mythological and religious subjects.
His application and use of color, his vivid, luminous tints, his brushwork, and subtlety of tone had a profound influence on Western art.
The Death of Actaeon
- Title: The Death of Actaeon
- Artist: Titian
- Created: 1559-75
- Media: Oil paint
- Dimensions: 178.4 cm x 198.1 cm (77.9 in)
- Museum: The National Gallery, London
- Name: Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio
- Known as: Titian
- Born: c. 1488-1490 – Pieve di Cadore, Republic of Venice
- Died: 1576 (aged about 88) – Venice, Italy
- Notable Works:
Titian: ‘The Death of Actaeon’
A Tour of the National Gallery
15th Century Paintings
- “Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan van Eyck – 1434
- “The Battle of San Romano” by Paolo Uccello– 1440
- “Venus and Mars” by Sandro Botticelli – 1483
- “Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan” by Giovanni Bellini– 1501
‘Diana and Actaeon’
16th Century Paintings
- “Mystic Nativity” by Sandro Botticelli – 1550
- “Virgin of the Rocks” by Leonardo da Vinci – 1506
- “The Madonna of the Pinks” by Raphael – 1507
- “The Raising of Lazarus” by Sebastiano del Piombo– 1519
- “Salvator Mundi” by Andrea Previtali – 1519
- “Bacchus and Ariadne” by Titian – 1523
- “The Ambassadors” by Hans Holbein the Younger – 1533
- “Mary Magdalene” by Girolamo Savoldo – 1540
- “Saint George and the Dragon” by Tintoretto – 1558
- “The Family of Darius before Alexander” by Paolo Veronese – 1567
- “Diana and Actaeon” by Titian – 1569
- “The Rape of Europa” by Paolo Veronese – 1570
- “The Death of Actaeon” by Titian – 1575
- “The Origin of the Milky Way” by Tintoretto – 1575
The Death of Actaeon
Understanding Titian’s color revolution
17th Century Paintings
- “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio – 1601
- “Samson and Delilah” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1610
- “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” by Diego Velázquez – 1618
- “The Judgement of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1635
- “Aurora abducting Cephalus” by Peter Paul Rubens – 1637
- “Equestrian Portrait of Charles I” by Anthony van Dyck – 1638
- “Venus at her Mirror” by Diego Velázquez – 1651
- “The Courtyard of a House in Delft” by Pieter de Hooch – 1658
- “Self Portrait at the Age of 63” by Rembrandt – 1669
- “A Young Woman standing at a Virginal” by Johannes Vermeer – 1670
Titian: The father of modern painting
“The painter must always seek the essence of things, always represent the essential characteristics and emotions of the person he is painting.”
Photo Credit:1)Titian [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons